A couple decides to go on a yachting voyage, and they buy a prostitute to accompany them on their journey. The man is a sadistic killer who enjoys raping and torturing young women, and the young prostitute quickly learns that she has to fight for her life to survive.
There’s a lot to say about this film. Thankfully, most of it is good.
The movie opens with a girl walking through a city square, and quickly cuts to her running fully nude along a beach, seemingly terrified for her life. We quickly learn why, as the camera’s focus shifts to a first-person view of her murderer, who catches up to her in the waves and carves open her mouth and breasts before leaving her dead on the shore.
It’s clear from the first few minutes of the film that we’re in for a brutal ride. We are introduced to a couple named Raphael and Isabell, who visit a bar where they purchase a prostitute to come with them on their yacht. Raphael is all smiles, convincing the prostitute, Lisa, that this will be a fun journey. Isabell is less impressed, seemingly quite angry (naturally) that her husband needs more entertainment than she can provide. The guy comes across as a little rapey after they board the ship, which Lisa tolerates on account of her being a prostitute and him having booze.
The two women sunbathe through most of the film, while Raphael watches from the interior of the boat. He watches as Lisa goes to the bathroom, and his wife is clearly less than pleased. She shows her defiance by refusing to eat or drink, which makes Raphael furious. He berates her, and attempts to force her to eat her food. All the while, Lisa is attempting to defuse the situation, to no avail. Eventually, things calm down, and the next day, Raphael announces that he’s decided Lisa can’t wear clothes any longer. He forces her to strip off her clothes by throwing her watch, shoes, and purse into the ocean, quickly followed by the clothes she removes. He then throws her overboard as well, letting her back into the boat only after she’s removed her bikini bottom as well. He ties her to the boat, and she’s now a captive.
In Voyage to Agatis, we have a film that is quite stylishly shot, which is no surprise from director Marian Dora, whose previous works like Cannibal and Melancholie der Engel tend to focus on artsy sexual torture. The movie feels like a student film, but not at all in a bad way. Dora gives us a refreshing, original take on the serial rapist and murderer, and a somewhat-complicit wife to go along.
The quality of the cinematography is subpar, but in a rare instance, it actually works with this film: the camerawork is as dirty as the subject matter. It adds to the feeling of despair and the inevitability of the film itself. The scenery is beautiful (at least what we can see of it), with the movie opening in a quaint (presumably) German village, and the open seas afterwards with mountainous islands on both sides. The peaceful, serene shots of the yacht on the ocean, surrounded by seagulls, is contrasted by the ever-increasing brutality of Lisa’s captors. What we’re left with is a disturbing film with substance.
Dora intercuts plot scenes with seemingly random shots of a dirty doll floating in the waves, and an existential voice-over that adds a layer of the philosophical to the sexual violence on-screen. But, then again, Dora has made a career of the psychosexual film. The two girls are nude through most of the film, and while one is mostly innocent (besides being a prostitute), the other is complicit at times with the events unfolding. Lisa is a sweet, innocent (again, relatively) girl who is just there to have a good time, and her role as a prostitute seems more like that of an actual escort, someone who is just there to be part of the group. Isabell, the wife, at times fights back against her husband/captor, and at other times is directly responsible for things being done to Lisa. The audience doesn’t know whether to hate Isabell as a member of the killer duo, or feel bad that she seems, at times, to be clearly forced into it.
These questions are somewhat answered when Raphael finally decides to rape Lisa, while Isabell watches and masturbates (Yeah, the film is a little messed up.) She is, clearly, an abused woman who is siding with her abuser, but we’re still left wondering if she is fully complicit in his actions or if she is acting solely out of self-preservation. Sure, I’d love to feel bad for her, she’s clearly been through some shit. And yet… she’s there. There’s plenty she could do, and she doesn’t. She helps Raphael throw Lisa’s clothes overboard, taunting her all the way, and then gives her a knife that she says is her only chance for escape, while also leaving her tied to the boat, leaving the audience as confused as she clearly is.
What Voyage to Agatis lacks in plot, it makes up for in brutal violence. While the rest of the film is fairly graphic, the last ten minutes or so makes up for lost time by going off-the-rails in brutality. Lisa escapes the boat and swims to an island on the coast. The couple follows, and it becomes a hunt, with both Raphael and Isabell being active participants. They finally catch up to her, and with Isabell cheering him on, Raphael savagely stabs Lisa to death. He graphically rapes her with a knife, later cutting out her tongue and slicing her nipple off. Then, he cuts open her belly and pulls out her intestines. This is all shown unflinchingly on-screen in graphic detail. It was incredibly hard to watch, and I’m not one to flinch. The last ten minutes of this film could not have been made in America, at least not for a theatrical release. It’s very realistic, and very disturbing.
After mercilessly torturing and murdering Lisa, Raphael hugs Isabell, and he drags Lisa’s body onto the rocks. They sail off into the sunset, with the doll floating aimlessly in the waves. Our final voice-over tells us that Lisa will always be there, watching as Raphael travels further and further away from the good man he could’ve been. Dora makes it clear that we all have a choice: we can be good people, or we can be Raphael. It’s an interesting point, but one that sort of misses the mark. I don’t think many of us would choose to be Raphael (though some clearly do). It’s almost like an unneeded warning, where the film tells us that we really shouldn’t become serial killers. Yeah, no worries here.
A brutal film filled with nudity and violence, Voyage to Agatis definitely fits the bill as an extreme film. Dora gives us a legitimate entry into the disturbingly sexual film genre. It’s worth a watch if you liked weird, artsy rape films. Sheez, that should have a genre to itself.